WILMINGTON — Tuesday night, the Fox series “Our Kind of People” made its debut and put the spotlight on quite a few recognizable places across the Port City. The show is co-produced by Lee Daniels (“Monster’s Ball,” “Precious”) and written by Karin Gist (“Mixed-ish,” “Gray’s Anatomy”). It is not Gist’s first go in Wilmington; she also produced multiple episodes of the locally filmed “One Tree Hill” from 2008 to 2010.
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Wilmington’s beaches (Wrightsville and Fort Fisher) and historic areas — including high-end homes that follow generational wealth, an important aspect of the show — become the face of Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. This area of Martha’s Vineyard is well-known in real life as a place where, a century ago, upper-class Black families vacationed and lived on the north side of the island, while whites lived on the east side.
The fictitious show follows the Duponts and Franklins, successful business people of Oak Bluffs, whose classism takes center stage against outsider Angela Vaughn (Yaya DeCosta). The less wealthy newcomer from Boston has relocated to the area in hopes of finding a niche for her haircare business.
Vaughn’s recently deceased mother once lived and worked as a maid in Oak Bluffs and left behind a boarding house for her daughter. As the business entrepreneur settles into her new home as a single mom raising a teenage daughter Nikki (Alana Bright), along with her spunky aunt (Debbi Morgan), fitting into the upper-crust coastal society proves challenging — and eye-opening. In the first episode, Vaughn uncovers family secrets that tie her to her new adversaries in unexpected ways.
“Our Kind of People” started filming in Wilmington in June and has pulled permits for locations across the Port City weekly. Production has commenced at Quanto Basta, Flytrap Brewing, near the Black Lives Do Matter mural in Jervay Memorial Park, as well as in homes in Wellesley and Carolina Bay.
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The show, which airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox, has been in the works for four years and is based on author Lawrence Otis Graham’s 1999 nonfiction book, “Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class.” Graham, who passed away in February, interviewed six of the richest Black families in the nation, whose wealth traced back to the 1870s. The book has been praised by the Washington Post and New York Times for giving readers a peek into the world of privileged African Americans from the end of the 19th into mid-20th centuries — eras of post-Reconstruction, segregation and civil rights when Black individuals were being pushed out of their businesses and even towns for merely existing, much less thriving.
While area North Carolina beaches hosted Black vacationers at Freeman Park in the mid-20th century — and white developers attempted to build out Shell Island as much the same — it wasn’t as exclusive to African-American one-percenters like Oak Bluffs or Inkwell Beach in Martha’s Vineyard. Graham described in his book how the coastal town’s Black citizens participated in cotillions, lived in million-dollar homes, and joined high-society clubs.
The first hour-long episode of “Our Kind of People” covers as much territory, though with less reverence. Set in modern-day, the soapy drama comes with a fast-moving storyline, hones in on the glitz and glam of the setting and its players, and is complete with eye-rolling judgment and quippy dialogue from its characters. Split-screen imagery features B-roll of Martha’s Vineyard; however, local viewers will recognize many Wilmington places featured in episode one, “Reparations.” Here are a few:
1. Station No. 2
The protagonist’s home — an old boarding school Angela’s mother owned and left in her will — is the renovated firehouse on 5th Avenue and Castle Street. Station No. 2 has been a part of the area for more than 100 years. Located across from Rx Restaurant (also noticeable in a few of the show’s shots) at 602 S. 5th St., the fire station originally opened in 1915 and used horse-drawn buggies as fire engines.
Today, the renovated venue is an event space, with 1,700 square feet in accommodations upstairs in the Firehouse Suite.
2. Cape Fear Country Club
The first episode features many exterior and interior shots of Cape Fear Country Club — North Carolina’s oldest country club.
The message is clear: The wealthy have access to all needed amenities — basketball courts, tennis, swimming — in Oak Bluffs. The country club also acts as the meeting place for a women’s organization Vaughn is itching to be accepted into, without much fanfare but instead a lot of drama.
3. Wilmington International Airport
What’s a series about generational wealth without access to a private plane?
A hangar located on the grounds of the Wilmington International Airport gets highlighted early on in “Reparations,” as viewers are introduced to the primary breadwinners in the show, the Franklin-Dupont family.
4. Carolina Place Apartments
It’s one of Wilmington’s most filmed spots: Carolina Apartments. Located at 420 Market Street, the building has appeared in numerous shows and films, including “The Conjuring” and “Blue Velvet.”
In “Our Kind of People,” it is Angela’s childhood home — a place where she relishes memories of her mother and where she first gets a glimpse of who her father is.
5. Brooklyn Arts Center Annex
Located on Fourth Street on the Northside of downtown, the renovated St. Andrews Presbyterian Church from the 1800s opened as the event space, Brooklyn Arts Center, a decade ago. The space continues to get updated, including its adjoining Annex which hosts events, parties, and small listening-room concerts.
The Annex appears in episode one of “Our Kind of People” as a meeting spot for an upper echelon fraternity.
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